IMF job: No decision on Lagarde probe before June 10

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Judges may decide on June 10 whether or not to investigate Christine Lagarde, French finance minister and favourite to become the next head of the IMF, for abuse of power, legal sources said on Tuesday.

This coincides with the closing date for the announcement of candidacies for the top international post. Lagarde has yet to say whether she will be in the running.

Judicial officials said this was the date on which which the complaints commission of the Court of Justice of the Republic, which is charged with deciding whether serving ministers can be probed, will next meet.

No decision on Lagarde's fate can be made before then.

Lagarde had emerged as the frontrunner in the race to replace her countryman Dominique Strauss-Kahn as head of the International Monetary Fund, having won the support of European heavyweights France, Britain and Germany.

But her candidacy is dogged by allegations she exceeded her authority by cutting short a legal battle between French tycoon Bernard Tapie and a formerly state-owned bank and sending the parties into binding arbitration.

The arbitration panel decided to award Tapie, a supporter of Lagarde's boss President Nicolas Sarkozy, 385 million euros in the case, linked to the bank's alleged mishandling of the entrepreneur's sale of the Adidas sportswear firm.

Prosecutors investigating complaints over Lagarde's role have asked the Court of Justice of the Republic to decided whether she can be formally investigated on charges of exceeding her authority.

The court could give one of three decisions: It could throw out the case, it could ask for more information or it could order an inquiry which in turn could see Lagarde charged with a criminal offence.

If convicted she could eventually face five years in prison.

Few in France expect it to come to that but -- after New York prosecutors charged Strauss-Kahn with the sexual assault and attempted rape of a hotel chamber maid -- some IMF members might be wary of more scandal.

© 2011 AFP

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